Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #111: Mmmmm… Beeeeeer

Sorry for the long absence. Let’s carry on, shall we? “If you listen to the guys up in the stands, pretty soon you’ll be up there sitting with them.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #102: Dancing Limbaughs

“What they really want to see is, they want you to chop your fucking arm off, hold up your arm, wave it around spewing blood, and believe me, if you did that, the crowd would go fucking ballistic. You only get four good shows like that, though. Four good shows, and then you’re just a torso and a head, trying to get one of your band mates to give you one last hurrah and chop your head off. Which they probably wouldn’t do, which would really be hell.” Who said it? Continue reading

Is apathy socially redeeming?

Many an activist and other members of the liberal left (sorry, conservatives, there’s nothing derogatory about that term you use for us) has torn out his or her hair over apathy on the part of the general public. Why do so few Americans care about inhumanity and injustice? Worse, why do they often vote against their own interests?

What compounds our frustration and bewilderment over our fellow Americans’ negligible participation in the political process is the overarching irony. We’re citizens of the nation that put participatory democracy on the map for God’s sake. How did we arrive at this sad state of affairs, which I call the enduring enigma of the American public? Continue reading

Nota Bene #101: Your Pal, Mike S.

“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading

Predicting the 21st Century: Nostraslammy's ten-year review

Ten years ago, at the turn of the millennium, Nostraslammy took a stab at predicting the 21st Century, with a promise to check back every ten years to see how the prognostications were turning out. Odds are good I won’t be able to do a review every ten years until 2100, but I figure I’m probably good through 2030, at least, barring some unforeseen calamity. And if you’re Nostraslammy, what’s this “unforeseen” thing, anyway?

Let’s see how our 22 articles of foresight are holding up, one at a time.

1: Researchers will develop either a vaccine or a cure for AIDS by 2020. However, it will be expensive enough that the disease will plague the poor long after it has become a non-issue for the rich and middle classes (although this is one case where political leaders might fund free treatment programs). The end of AIDS will trigger a sexual revolution that will compare to or exceed that of the 1960s and 1970s (unless another deadly sexually-transmitted disease evolves, which is certainly a possibility). Continue reading

Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2

Part 2 of a series; Previously: What Bell Labs and French Intellectuals Can Tell Us About Cronkite and Couric

The Signal-to-Noise Journey of American Media

The 20th Century represented a Golden Age of Institutional Journalism. The Yellow Journalism wars of the late 19th Century gave way to a more responsible mode of reporting built on ethical and professional codes that encouraged fairness and “objectivity.” (Granted, these concepts, like their bastard cousin “balance,” are not wholly unproblematic. Still, they represented a far better way of conducting journalism than we had seen before.) It’s probably not idealizing too much to assert that reporting in the Cronkite Era, for instance, was characterized by a commitment to rise above partisanship and manipulation. The journalist was expected to hold him/herself to a higher standard and to serve the public interest. These professionals – and I have met a few who are more than worthy of the title – believed they had a duty to search for the facts and to present them in a fashion that was as free of bias as possible.

In other words, their careers, like that of Claude Shannon, were devoted to maximizing the signal in the system – the system here being the “marketplace of ideas.” Continue reading

Has a college degree become a bad investment? Better question: is conservative rhetoric the worst investment in history?

Yesterday over at Future Majority, Kevin Bondelli responded to Jack Hough’s New York Post column “Don’t Get That College Degree!” Bondelli’s take led with one of the more terrifying titles I’ve seen lately: “Has College Become a Bad Investment?” Yow. When you dig the hole so deep that you can even use that kind of question as a rhetorical device, you know you’re in some deep, deep kim-chee. Seriously. That one ranks right up there with “Is breathing really a good idea?” and “What are the lasting benefits of a howitzer shot to the balls?”

Snark aside, Bondelli does a nice job of addressing Hough, who “argues that the increase in lifetime wages for graduates no longer makes up for the financial burden of university education and the ensuing student loan burden.” He also takes on one of the GOP’s most successful and devastating canards, explaining that Continue reading

Meanings, pt. 3: public service

by Michael Tracey

Let me return to a period which is widely regarded within the advanced industrial societies as a high water mark of public service broadcasting, the BBC in the early 1960s. A key figure from those years was Sir Arthur fforde (that is the correct, if old-fashioned spelling of his name), in my view quite possibly the greatest of the chairmen of the BBC. In 1963 he published a little booklet called What is Broadcasting About, which was printed privately in an edition of 400. In this at first curious piece he tries to lay out a theological context for what was happening within the BBC, which was then at the height of its creative and social impact on British society, and causing all kinds of heartburn among what used to be called the Establishment. Continue reading